Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flat shoe flattery - the vamp


When you buy a shoe the first things you probably look for are colour & style.

Style choice involves looking at the heel, the heel height, the back, the toe, the straps & how the whole thing is put together.

When it comes to flat shoes, there is something that can be quite subtle but makes a big difference to the look of the shoe & the flattery factor for you.

That something is the vamp.

What is the vamp?

Every shoe has an upper part that helps hold the shoe onto the foot. This is the vamp. 

In the simplest cases, such as sandals or flip-flops, this may be nothing more than a few straps for holding the sole in place. 

Closed footwear, such as pumps, boots, trainers and most men's shoes, will have a more complex upper. This part is often decorated or is made in a certain style to look attractive. 

Why is the vamp important?

Apart from being central to the style of the shoe, the vamp is what determines whether the shoe looks flattering to your feet, whether it makes your look feminine and whether it looks appealing worn with dresses/skirts or pants.

The easiest way to do this is with examples.

Example #1:

My oldest, most worn flatties, Fossil on the left, Florsheim on the right.

Given my feet roll out, especially at the small toe area, I am better off with the Fossil as the vamp covers that whole area.

In contrast, the Florsheim may have a tongue (see diagram above), but doesnt provide full coverage around the small toe. So the Florsheim looks less appealing from that perspective.

Example #2:

I love JP Tod's.

On the left, Tod's with white stitching and a horizontal piece closer to the tongue. 
On the right, Tod's with navy stitching & plain flat vamp.

The plain Tod's make my foot look longer as there is no breakage of the vertical line of the vamp. Small difference? I didnt notice this when I got the plain ones - and I dont want my feet to look like boats, but if I wear the plain ones with jeans, you dont notice the length.

Example #3:

On the left Tod's in plain navy calf leather & on the right the plain navy patent Tod's.

Two things here.

Firstly a patent will always look bigger as the shine reflects light.

Secondly, the patent Tod's make my foot look longer as there is no breakage of the vertical line of the vamp.

Example #4:

On the left is a Raphael D'Stella moccasin style red shoe.

On the right is the Tod's in plain calf leather.

Notice I have picked 2 shoes with some sort of interest on them & a similar shape.

However the red looks larger as it is a brighter colour. The navy shoe looks smaller - dark colours absorb light - hence look smaller.

Example #5:

On the left a G Porciani in gold tones.

On the right a Nando Muzi (Luisa Shoes)

See how the gold has a much larger vamp and its toe cap (the bright gold) is larger.

Now look at the Nando Muzi - smaller toe cap & a smaller vamp, by at least a centimeter.

The Muzi looks more feminine due to the lesser coverage. It would suit a dress or shorts more than the Porciani. But the Porciani would be OK with pants.

On the other hand if you have big feet or you are really hard on your feet, you may not be best served with the more delicate batter shoe. Maybe you should go for the Portiani or, perhaps, a loafer or moccasin?

Does that make sense?

Example #6:

These two ballet flats are similar in style and cut but different in colour.

Notice how the pink makes the foot look larger - again its that old rule that light colours reflect light and appear larger. In contrast the foot in the darker shoe looks smaller due to the absorption of light.

Example #7:

On the left, a navy ballet flat (same as ex #6)
On the right, a black ballet flat.

These are the same brand, Loriblu - I bought them from the same store, however a season apart. I bought the navy first, then the black. 

I am pretty sure that if you had asked any of the sales assistants whether they were identical, they would have said "yes". I find most sales people just dont notice the details - you have to rely on your own powers of observation and gut feelings.

During that season difference, the store changed its vamp & back then (about 8 years ago), I wasnt savvy enough to notice the difference in the vamp or bring in the navy & compare directly side by side. Silly me.

But can you see how the right shoe has a large vamp? ie: it covers more of my foot. It also has a larger toe cap - ie: the seam is further away from my toes.

Frankly I think the black ones look more blah. I think the navy ones are more flattering. Do you agree?

Luckily - both provide good coverage to my little toes so the roll out feet problem isnt exacerbated.

Example #8:

On the left, a Ralph Lauren mock croc heel.

On the right, an Antonio Barbato navy mocasin style heel (from the same store as the ballet flats in ex #7).

The Ralph shoes are slimmer, pointier & have a smaller vamp. Much more girlie than than the moccasin style, Yes?

Example #9:

On the left, Michel Vivien, mary jane with a very low strap.
On the right, Ferragamo, mary jane with a higher strap.

Two things to notice here.

Firstly, I should never have bought the Viviers due to my small toe are rolling out. The vamp just isnt cut large enough to house that area of my foot well enough. 

In contrast, the Ferragamos have a terrific fit around my foot and enclose my rolling out foot well.

Secondly, the thicker the strap and the closer it is to the narrowest part of your foot (ie: your ankle), the more your foot will be cut horizontally and the more shorter & fatter you will appear. This is REALLY important.

[PS: I am assuming you arent wearing a chunky platform, because in those cases, the straps may well need to be larger - ie: in proportion to the chunkiness of the shoe]

Now look at my photo - on the Vivier, the strap is thin & no where near the ankle. Tick.

On the Ferragamo, the strap is thicker & close to the ankle, but still below it. So it allows the thin ankles to be shown off and doesnt make me look stumpy. Unfortunately for the purposes of this blog (but lucky for me), I dont have any strappy shoes with a horizontal strap at the ankle. But when you are trying on strappy shoes, step back and look at whether the horizontal strap is sitting at the ankle. If it is, take them off & run away. There will be a better shoe for you somewhere else.

I hope you enjoyed this post - any questions - just ask. 

Now I have to go & put 15 pairs of shoes back in their boxes.....


  1. Thanks for that, I dont wear ballet flats didnt think I had the feet and ankles for them but will give them another try. Miranda

    1. Miranda - I gather you thought your feet & ankles were too thick/large for ballet flats? Is that what you meant? If so, make sure you also get a ballet flat that has structure around the back of the foot - ie that has a back that stays up & doesnt have elastic or ribbon around the edges. The structured ones will hold your foot in better. The others tend to get loose easier.....Val

  2. Footwear is an important accessory as they add that finishing touch to your look. Great shoes enhances your attire and bestylish is the best online shoes store for all brand-conscious shoe shoppers.
    And these flat shoes are awesome!!

    1. You're kidding right? These shoes are all so ugly!! It's actually embarrassing watching this woman 'teaching' us about what's good & what's bad!

  3. You have really ugly shoes & your feet look foul. My advise - donate all to the op shop. In fact trash them, they're not op shop worthy.